By: Daniella Palomino, Contributing Writer
Edited by: Elias Azizi, Editor in Chief
When you stare into a mirror, what is it that you see? Or maybe can’t see? The color of your hair. Does it look black? Blonde? Maybe blue? The color of your physical characteristics, how you are able to see them, even how you react, is the result of hundreds of years of rearranging and arranging of genes. These little units are like lego pieces, put together to give you your body and mind. Every physical aspect of you, you got from your parents, who got theirs from your grandparents, and so on and so on. But, if the genes are constantly being used and reused, why is it that each person is different? Or that some people have 6 fingers on one hand or are born with diseases like sickle-cell anemia? What causes these genetic disorders, and how does it become hereditary?
What is a Genetic Disorder?
Genes are the basic units of heredity. These little protein bits are passed down from person to person down the family tree to you, determining how tall you are and the natural color of your physical characteristics. According to an article, Biology for Kids: Genetics, genes consist of DNA which are part of chromosomes. DNA acts as the “lego manual” for all the lego pieces that are your genetic material. A genetic disorder is when there is an altercation with this “lego manual”. KidsHealth explains that a genetic disorder can happen for five different reasons: a change in a gene, a missing chromosome, a gene shift, extra chromosome, or few or too many chromosomes. When there is a change in the “lego manual”, or if you have more than one lego piece, or are missing a lego piece, it changes the end creation. This change in genes sometimes results in different cancers, Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and others.
How does it become Hereditary?
Most times, a genetic disorder is hereditary, meaning a mutated gene is passed down from one of the parents. Other times, it can happen in the individual, apart from their parents. This change in genes is caused when the person is exposed to mutagen. According to LearnScience, mutagens are chemical or environmental factors that change the gene pattern. An example of such is ultraviolet rays, also known as sunlight. Without the protection of skin cells, these rays can damage them, harming the genes they carry and potentially changing its pattern.
Can it be reversed?
Once a gene is changed, the pattern is continuously replicated across the body. Because of this, MedlinePlus explains that genetic mutations cannot be reversed. On the other hand, they can be treated as to not impact the person as fatally as they sometimes would. For example, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that disrupts the shape of a red blood cell, impacting its ability to transport blood about the body. Without treatment, this may be deadly. Fortunately, a bone marrow transplant offers a solution.
Although genetic mutations cannot be reversed, you can still take back control by taking preventative measures and through reversion and gene therapy. In reversion, another gene mutation is instigated in order to counteract the effects of the initial mutation. In gene therapy, faulty genes are replaced by new ones. Frontiers for Young Minds discussed that the best preventative measures are to avoid chemical use and to use protective equipment when in use. Simply using masks and gloves when dealing with chemicals can greatly reduce the damage and impact of chemical mutagens on one’s cells. Avoiding tobacco products is another example, considering that inhaling the smoke directly or indirectly can damage the genes. DNA protection is also key towards preventing gene mutations, which can be done through effective exercise, natural extracts, less stress, and a balanced diet. Springer Open details the aforementioned details to be essential towards protecting DNA. Any damage done to genes is irreparable, but measures can be taken to prevent them from happening in the first place. Genes do more than just give you your skin color or decide if your hair is straight or curly; they are vital towards the creation of you.
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